Remember about a year ago when we reported that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had invested in a rebranding effort for their I-5 Rose Quarter project?
While the project remains mired in federal red tape, ODOT has rolled out bits and pieces of the new look. The new logo is a big departure from the old one, and early reviews tell us it might not have the desired impact of reducing criticism of the project.
The original logo was pretty standard. It showed several modes — biking, walking, driving, and transit — coming together in an attempt to highlight the project’s multimodal elements (if it ever gets built, the project will widen I-5 and add bikeways and other changes to surface streets above it). The color scheme was a safe blue and green.
As you can see, the new logo comes with a new color palette. Gone are the blues and greens. They’ve been swapped for dark browns and oranges. And instead of the transportation-themed logo, ODOT has chosen to use an architectural element. The pointed dome is the cupola that once adorned the Hill Block Building on the corner of North Williams and Russell. The dome was built in 1910 when that part of town was still known as the city of Albina and the Hill Block was the center of what would become a vibrant business district in the through the first half of the 20th century.
In 1975, the Hill Block was demolished as part of the “urban renewal” plan to expand Legacy Emanuel Hospital and the cupola was saved and moved to nearby Dawson Park where it has remained as the cap to the park’s gazebo ever since.
Suffice it to say, this cupola is more than just a historic architectural remnant.
Given the continuous controversy and widespread criticism of the I-5 project, and the historical context of the Williams/Albina area that has been marked by racism, disinvestment and displacement due to the hospital, gentrification, the Rose Garden, and I-5 itself, ODOT is desperate to distance themselves from that past as they work to complete the project.
When we asked an ODOT official about the reason for the rebranding in April 2021, they said, “It’s an effort to better understand how we are showing up in communities.” A consultant hired by ODOT to design and implement the new brand told committee members the current brand works fine for a transportation project, but it no longer fits, “After the shift of the project to restorative justice and equity for Black Portlanders.”
For at least one very important person who holds considerable sway in the Albina neighborhood and in policymaking circles, the new logo isn’t such a great fit either.
After I shared the new logo on Twitter today, Albina Vision Trust Board Chair, Meyer Memorial Trust Chief Investment Officer, and longtime ODOT skeptic Rukaiyah Adams didn’t mince words when sharing her opinion:
“Rebranding the project after the rebranding of the neighborhood that followed the use of eminent domain. Evoking Albina with the building roof, but calling it the “Rose Quarter”, which was never actually designated for the neighborhood is a poke in the eye to community. Wow.”